Tuesday, February 8, 2011

WIKI-dly engaging!

With our new Blackboard 9.1 system, I have been examining how to move my online course into a more communication-friendly environment. I feel online learning can often leave students feeling isolated. I crafted journals using the new "journal" feature, I reconsidered previous assignments, examined "grouping" students, digitally upgraded past discussions adding video content and links, and today I dove head first into the BB9.1 wiki.

The wiki feature in 9.1 is shaping up to be a great tool for student collaboration without a lot of discussion board threads that (supposedly) help the students engage with one another. I have found the discussion boards less than exciting the past semester and was thrilled to know we upgraded to a new learning platform which allows more student-to-student collaboration right in the BB space. The issue I had today was getting myself to stop exploring the wiki feature. I spent a few very fun moments today trying to stop playing with the wiki feature of BB9.1 and all I could think about was the many ways students could communicate with one another on a true working level. They won't be limited to a post/reply forced dynamic and this is exciting. Additionally, this moves them out of the answer-my-prompt format of many of the discussion boards. It allows them to think creatively and engage with the content material differently.

I am launching the use of the wiki feature this semester to see how the students respond to it. First, I asked the students if they would like to try the new technology. There was reluctance, but after explaining what a wiki was (with the inevitable, "Oh, like wikipedia!" statement) the students were excited. Then I got their feedback on what they thought they might like to do. Lastly, I made a sample wiki using blackboard that they can all view. I created an assignment overview with a clear "purpose of this assignment..." statement that all of the Web 2.0 articles say is necessary for student buy-in with new technology. For my purposes, I separated the students into two randomly assigned groups. BB9.1 assigned the groups for me! Now each group will craft a wiki this semester. The process will involve several sessions of class where we check in with one another to regroup and review techniques, pitfalls, and address concerns but I am mirroring the activity in both the online and on-ground courses to see how it goes.

So far, the wiki is engaging and very open for students to take the lead/direction. This initial freedom might cause uncertainty and confusion in the students so I am remaining very available and open for student questions and worries. I will be posting back as the project gets under way and hopefully we will be able to reach both the on-ground and online students with a new, collaborative-based communication tool.

Want to learn more about wikis? Check out these links:
And since the Blackboard wiki space takes a bit of clicking and trying it out before "getting" it (at least for me and my eLearning director), examine http://www.ndsu.edu/fileadmin/www.its.ndsu.edu/instruct/blackboard/wikis_getstarted.pdf

If you're trying BB9.1 wikis (or other wiki hosting spaces), why not add a comment and let us all know how it goes?

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